Common views on meat eating

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ਅੰਡਜ ਜੇਰਜ ਉਤਭੁਜ ਸੇਤਜ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀਤੇ ਜੰਤਾ ॥

The beings born of eggs, born of the womb, born of the earth and born of sweat, all are created by You.
ਏਕੁ ਪੁਰਬੁ ਮੈ ਤੇਰਾ ਦੇਖਿਆ ਤੂ ਸਭਨਾ ਮਾਹਿ ਰਵੰਤਾ ॥੩॥
I have seen one glory of Yours, that You are pervading and permeating in all.

The first thing to be clear about is that Guru Granth Sahib is not a "Diet Chart" or a guide to diet only - it is a Spiritual Guide for the elevation of a persons spirituality or "inner spirit" or soul.

Whether or not to include meat, fish and eggs (or even milk and milk products) in ones diet, has long been a controversial topic among the religious men of India. India's youngest religion, Sikhi was begun by Guru Nanak and has today spread around the world, moving shoulder to shoulder with people of the world's other older religious traditions.

However, since the beginning of the Sikh religion, when Guru Nanak set out on the first of his Udasis (spiritual travels) to spread the ideals of his teachings to other men, the argument of whether or not to limit ones diet to vegetables, fruits, pulses, legumes, lentils, and grains continues.

The ancient background relating to meat eating is not fully understood but in India it was introduced predominately by Vaishnav saints, perhaps 1000's of years ago. From some early records of Yogis and other olden granths (religious books) like Vedas it appears that there was no prohibition to eating meat in those sects.

The "Meat Eating" debate is a popular issue in Islam, Jainism, Hinduism and other religions and not surprisingly, has been a hotly debated issue even among the Sikhs; the debate on meat eating goes on to this day.

  • The view stated in Gurbani can be read here, searched from

Rehat Maryada on Meat

Meat: What options?

Rehat Maryada is a "Code of Conduct" for Sikh; it was created by Sikh scholars in the 1930s.

There is only one part of this code that deals with this particular aspect of a Sikh's life and it is quoted below:

Section six

Ceremony of Baptism or Initiation

Article XXIV Sub-section p:

The undermentioned four transgressions (tabooed practices) must be avoided

  • Dishonouring the hair;
  • Eating the meat of an animal slaughtered the Muslim way (Ritual Killing)
  • Cohabiting with a person other than one's spouse;
  • Using tobacco.

These are four transgressions which are prohibited for a Sikh who has undertaken the baptism ceremony. The second transgression clearly states that meat of an animal killed by ritual is totally banned for a Sikh. This raises two important points - Firstly, saying prayers over the slaughtering of an animal does not make the meat pure and secondly, to stay on the right side of this ruling, it would be dangerous to eat any meat bought from a shop where the history of the slaughtering is unknown. Accordingly, this gives a clear message that meat killed in this fashion or where the method of killing is unknown must never be eaten by a baptised Sikh.

This edict by Sikh scholars and the Gurbani on this matter sends a clear message that meat is prohibited and must not be consumed by a practising Sikh.

Sikh Jathebindia and Sikh scholars

The common view of the majority of Sikh scholars appears to agree on the view that Sikhism does not require its followers to adhere to the long established Hindu and Yogic dictum of eating vegetables and grains only; that is refraining from the consumption of meat, eggs and fish. However the Guru Granth Sahib, the spiritual guide of every Sikh, makes one thing very clear in regard to a Sikh's diet. A Sikh should consume only healthy foods and drinks that are good for the body, nutrition that cause no harm to the body.

In an article published on March 12, 2012 in the Los Angeles Times the following was quoted from a scientific study:

"Eating red meat — any amount and any type — appears to significantly increase the risk of premature death, according to a long-range study that examined the eating habits and health of more than 110,000 adults for more than 20 years.

For instance, adding just one 3-ounce serving of unprocessed red meat — picture a piece of steak no bigger than a deck of cards — to one's daily diet was associated with a 13% greater chance of dying during the course of the study.

Even worse, adding an extra daily serving of processed red meat, such as a hot dog or two slices of bacon, was linked to a 20% higher risk of death during the study."

It is clear that the Sikh Gurus were aware of this danger and for this reason clearly advocate that a Sikh should not eat meat - see article here .

Also, Gurbani clearly states that one needs to make a personal decision to only eat and drink what is deemed useful and beneficial for the body. One should strictly limit the intake of foods and drinks that only please the palate and the senses, leading to gluttony, obesity and other ailments and health risks. The wisdom of the Guru Granth Sahib's advice, has been proven by modern medical studies that show that a calorie restricted diet (portion control) and "simple foods" without high fat contents, is an important factor in living a longer, healthier and more active life.

ਕਿਆ ਮੇਵਾ ਕਿਆ ਘਿਉ ਗ੝ੜ੝ ਮਿਠਾ ਕਿਆ ਮੈਦਾ ਕਿਆ ਮਾਸ੝ ॥
What good are fruits, what good is ghee, sweet jaggery, what good is flour, and what good is meat?

Many renowned Sikhs scholars like Sant Singh Maskeen, Darshan Singh Khalsa, Jagtar Singh Jachak, etc. do not support the fact that meat eating is prohibited in Sikhism nor do the jathedars of the Five Takhats believe this. Also, in SGPC maryada only Halal meat is not allowed. Even the Nihung Sampardays (fraternity) who have saved old traditional dress and traditional culture also say that there is nothing wrong in eating food. Sant Singh Maskeen even said "All those Taksaals and saints which have impression of some other religions like Jainism, Hinduism, etc speaks against meat".

However, most of the Sant jathebandi, like associates linked to Baba Nand Singh, Baba Puran Singh, Baba Isher Singh and many more including the spiritual leader, Yogi Harbhajan Singh have promoted the message of not eating meat in their communities. Sant Baba Puran Singh said, "The human body is not a graveyard for dead animals; a Gursikh who wishes to attain high spiritual status in life should refrain from eating meat, eggs and fish. God ha given us thousands of other items that are healthy and totally beneficial to our bodies and our mind; just consume these. Done let your tounge and taste buds influence your mind!"

Sikh scholars and Preachers

Some comments by many Sikh Scholars on this issue, source the world wide web/Usernet:

Giani Sant Singh Maskeen - Meat Eating is not Against Gurmat

With Historical References and Gurbani, Giani Sant Singh Maskeen proved that Sikhism is not like Vaishvanism or Jainism, who are not clear with facts how they are consuming lives and preaching vegetarianism.

Professor Darshan Singh Khalsa - Meat Eating is not Against Gurmat

Professor Darshan Singh Khalsa explained concept of Meat and Consuming meat taking examples from Guru Granth Sahib, Bhai Gurdas Vaar and History:

Sukhwinder Singh Nihung on Meat Eating

Sukhwinder Singh Nihung of Mandi Gobindgarh gave impressive speech in which he explained meaning of Meat(Mass) in Gurmat and explaining how meat eating is good and how it is bad.

Sikhs and Sikhism by I.J. Singh, Manohar, Delhi

Sikh consuming Meat
Throughout Sikh history, there have been movements or subsects of Sikhism which have espoused vegetarianism. I think there is no basis for such dogma or practice in Sikhism. Certainly Sikhs do not think that a vegetarian's achievements in spirituality are easier or higher. It is surprising to see that vegetarianism is such an important facet of Hindu practice in light of the fact that animal sacrifice was a significant and much valued Hindu Vedic ritual for ages. Guru Nanak in his writings clearly rejected both sides of the arguments - on the virtues of vegetarianism or meat eating - as banal and so much nonsense, nor did he accept the idea that a cow was somehow more sacred than a horse or a chicken. He also refused to be drawn into a contention on the differences between flesh and greens, for instance. History tells us that to impart this message, Nanak cooked meat at an important Hindu festival in Kurukshetra. Having cooked it he certainly did not waste it, but probably served it to his followers and ate himself. History is quite clear that Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh were accomplished and avid hunters. The game was cooked and put to good use, to throw it away would have been an awful waste.

A History of the Sikh People by Dr. Gopal Singh, World Sikh University Press, Delhi

Commenting on meat being served in the langar during the time of Guru Angad. However, it is strange that now-a-days in the Community-Kitchen attached to the Sikh temples, and called the Guru's Kitchen (or, Guru-ka-langar) meat-dishes are not served at all [citation needed]. May be, it is on account of its being, perhaps, expensive, or not easy to keep for long. Or, perhaps the Vaishnava tradition is too strong to be shaken off.

Philosophy of Sikhism, by Gyani Sher Singh (Ph.D), Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. Amritsar

As a true Vaisnavite Kabir remained a strict vegetarian. Kabir far from defying Brahmanical tradition as to the eating of meat, would not permit so much, as the plucking of a flower (G.G.S. pg 479)[citation needed], whereas Nanak deemed all such scruples to be superstitions[citation needed], Kabir held the doctrine of Ahinsa or the non-destruction of life, which extended even to that of flowers. The Sikh Gurus, on the contrary, allowed and even encouraged, the use of animal flesh as food[citation needed]. Nanak has exposed this Ahinsa superstition in Asa Ki War (S.G.G.S. pg 472) and Malar Ke War (S.G.G.S. pg. 1288)[citation needed].

Sikhism, A Complete Introduction, by Dr. H.S. Singha and Satwant Kaur, Hem***** Press, Delhi

In general Sikhism has adopted an ambivalent attitude towards meat eating as against vegetarianism. But if meat is to be taken at all, Guru Gobind Singh enjoined on the Khalsa Panth not to take kosher meat ie. Halal meat slaughtered

and prepared for eating according to the Islamic practice[citation needed]. In fact it is one of the kurahits for every amritdhari Sikh. One who infringes it becomes patit (apostate).

Real Sikhism by Surinder Singh Kohli, Harman Publishing, New Delhi

A close study of the above-mentioned hymns of Guru Nanak Dev clarifies the Sikh standpoint regarding meat-eating. The Guru has not fallen into the controversy of eating or not eating animal food. He has ridiculed the religious priests for raising their voice in favour of vegetarianism. He called them hypocrites and totally blind to the realities of life. They are unwise and thoughtless persons, who do not go into the root of the matter. According to him, the water is the source of all life whether vegetable or animal.
Guru Nanak Dev said, "None of the grain of corn is without life. In the first place, there is life in water, by which all are made green" (Var Asa M.1, p. 472).
Thus there is life in vegetation and life in all types of creatures.

Introduction to Sikhism, by Dr. Gobind Singh Mansukhani, Hemkut Press, Delhi

The Gurus neither advocate meat nor banned its use. They left it to the choice of the individual. There are passages against meat, in the Adi Granth. Guru Gobind Singh however prohibited for the Khalsa the use of Halal or Kutha meat prepared in the Muslim ritualistic way.

Introduction to Sikhism, by G.S. Sidhu, Shromini Sikh Sangat, Toronto

There are no restrictions for the Sikhs regarding food, except that the Sikhs are forbidden to eat meat prepared as a ritual slaughter. The Sikhs are asked to abstain from intoxicants.

The Sikh Faith by Gurbakhsh Singh, Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society, Vancouver

According to the Maryada booklet 'Kutha', the meat prepared by the Muslim ritual, is prohibited for a Sikh. Regarding eating other meat, it is silent. From the prohibition of the Kutha meat, it is rightly presumed that non-Kutha meat is not prohibited for the Sikhs. Beef is prohibited to the Hindus and pork to the Muslims. Jews and Christians have their own taboos. They do not eat certain kinds of meat on certain days. Sikhs have no such instructions. If one thinks he needs to eat meat, it does not matter which meat it is, beef, poultry, fish, etc., or which day it is. One should, however, be careful not to eat any meat harmful for his health. Gurbani's instructions on this topic are very clear.

"Only fools argue whether to eat meat or not. Who can define what is meat and what is not meat? Who knows where the sin lies, being a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian?" (1289)

Scientific Interpretation of Gurbani, Paper by Dr. Devinder Singh Chahal

The above discussion leads us to the conclusion that the Sikh Gurus made people aware of the fact that it is very difficult to distinguish between a plant and an animal, therefore, it is difficult to distinguish between a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian diets and there is no sin of eating food originating from plants or animals.

Mini Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, by H.S. Singha, Hemkut Press, Delhi.

The practice of the Gurus is uncertain. Guru Nanak seems to have eaten venison or goat, depending upon different janamsakhi versions of a meal which he cooked at Kurukshetra which evoked the criticism of Brahmins. Guru Amardas ate only rice and lentils but this abstention cannot be regarded as evidence of vegetarianism, only of simple living. Guru Gobind Singh also permitted the eating of meat but he prescribed that it should be jhatka meat and not Halal meat that is jagged in the Muslim fashion.

Professor Darshan Singh Khalsa, Ex Jathedar and his other supporters also consume meat.

In Sikh Rehat Maryada, only Halal meat is banned. The Maryada is authentic by Akal Takhat. Though saints have their own Maryada's, some even said there is no problem in consuming wine too if in control.

So Gurmat concludes:

ਬਾਬਾ ਹੋਰ੝ ਖਾਣਾ ਖ੝ਸੀ ਖ੝ਆਰ੝ ॥

O Baba, the pleasures of other foods are false.

ਜਿਤ੝ ਖਾਧੈ ਤਨ੝ ਪੀੜੀਝ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਚਲਹਿ ਵਿਕਾਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

whose consumption makes the body is ruined, and wickedness and corruption enter into the mind. ||1||Pause||

Professor Sarabjit Singh Dhunda

Tiger Jatha UK - Sikh Missionary on Meat Eating

See also

External links



  • Katha Sant Singh maskeen
  • Sikh Rehat Maryada
  • Guru Granth Sahib
  • Dasam Granth
  • Panth Parkash
  • Suraj Bilas Granth